Why Isn't My House Selling?

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville AB066108

This is a common lament of sellers today.  And no wonder, in Montgomery County, there are over 5,500 homes currently on the market.  Year to date in 2011, 4,649 homes have sold, 926 are currently pending settlement, and 3,055 sellers gave up and their listings are currently expired or withdrawn.

As the numbers show, buyers do exist and homes sell every day.  But the numbers also show that there are a whole lot of homes available for sale and sellers who would like to move.  At the current rate, it will take nine more months to work off the current inventory (assuming no new homes come on the market which is obviously unrealistic). 

Then why does one house sell within a few days of listing while others have languished on the market for months if not years?  This is not a simple question as there is no “perfect” home and every home is unique in what it offers a potential buyer.  However, we can get back to basics. 

There are four key components to selling a house:  location, condition, asking price and marketing.


LOCATION – Location, location, location.  This has always been and will always be a mantra for Realtors and homebuyers.  Homes that have compromised locations such as power lines in the backyard, being on or near a busy road, adjacent to industrial or commercial buildings, high property taxes, areas considered poor in terms of crime or quality of education, etc.  These homes will suffer more in the down market which we are currently in. 

There is very little a homeowner can do to address a problem location.  At best, a seller may consider constructing a privacy fence to shelter the home from the surroundings or appealing their property taxes.  But when all other things are equal, a buyer will still choose a property in a better location.


CONDITION – This is an area that most buyers have almost complete control over unless they are severely cash strapped and cannot afford any improvements.  Even then, a seller can do some of the simpler suggestions:  clean, clear out the clutter, clean, organize, clean, open up the shades to allow natural light in, clean, turn on the lights for showings, clean. 

Did we stress “clean” enough?  Get the cobwebs out of the basement, sweep off the patio, wash the mildew off the siding, wipe down chair rails, baseboards, and the blades of the ceiling fans, make the kitchens and bathrooms sparkle.  A clean, organized house with a little curb appeal goes a long way with buyers.   Then wallpaper removal, fresh paint, new carpets (or shampooed depending upon the condition), and clever staging can make the difference between a sale or no sale.

After that, there is a real balance between the cost of an improvement and the return on the investment at resale.  For example, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report, a new front door can net a return of 102% at resale; whereas, installing new windows is only around 72%.  So unless the windows are so bad that it would deter a buyer, a seller should not replace the windows just to sell.  A new kitchen counter and a change in flooring can transform a tired, dated kitchen at a reasonable cost; whereas, a total kitchen remodel is unlikely to be recouped at resale.

There are reasonable maintenance items that homeowners incur over time and if those items have been neglected, a seller will probably have to address them simply in order to sell unless they want to sell at a tremendous discount.  For example, most buyers (and their mortgage companies) will not take on a house that needs a new roof, the seller will most likely have to spend the money and get the job done. 

Sellers need to take an honest assessment of the condition of their homes and ask themselves, “Would I buy this home?”  This is an area where a professional Realtor can help in making the right suggestions for preparing the home for sale.  We usually suggest in this order:  clean/de-clutter first, address maintenance/repairs, and finally, make small improvements/upgrades that provide a lot of bang for the buck.


ASKING PRICE – Year to date, homes have sold on average for 90% of their original asking price.  However, it will not help as a seller to overprice your home in the anticipation that offers will come in at 80-90% of your asking price.  Overpriced homes generate NO offers.   They are the ones that tend to languish on the market and end up selling “below” market as they develop a stigma of sitting on the market too long.

A good indication of whether or not you are priced correctly is how many showings you are getting (with the caveat that marketing matters).  If you are not getting any showings, take a hard look at your price, location, and the efforts of your Realtor.  If you are getting showings but not selling, take a hard look at the condition of your home, the feedback for what you can change, and your price compared to competing properties.

Quite honestly, homes are currently selling around 2003-2004 price levels, so if you bought in the last several years and want to make a profit (or at least break even), the chances are not good unless you have put some money into upgrading the home since you purchased.   There is nothing you or your Realtor can do about the decline in home values.  Face the facts, don’t think too hard about what your neighbor sold for last year, and price your home appropriately.


MARKETING – It is the age of the internet.  Your first showing is now online through pictures and virtual tours.  90+% of homebuyers are searching for homes themselves online.  If your home doesn’t make the “cut,” a buyer will not request that all-important 2nd showing which is when they actually come to your home in person.  Part of a Realtor’s job is to present your home in the best possible light and make it appear everywhere on the internet.   Are you sure your Realtor is doing everything they can in this new age of the internet?


Even with all these basics in place, selling today requires patience, a thick skin and a realistic outlook.  The upside is that if once you sell, you plan to buy; you will do well buying in today’s market.



Why Isn't My House Selling? Originally appeared in the Montgomeryville-Lansdale Patch.

Contact Scott Loper, Associate Broker, Realtor®, RE/MAX Realty Group at 215-513-1333 for help buying or selling a home in Lansdale, Harleysville, Hatfield, Souderton, Skippack, Collegeville, North Wales and the surrounding areas of Montgomery County of Pennsylvania. To Search for Homes For Sale in Montgomery County Click Here.

Why Isn't My House Selling? - Copyright © 2011, The Scott Loper Team, All rights reserved.

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Show All Comments
Dave Williamson
Gateway Funding - Winona, MN

Nice article. Stick to the basics to be successful.

Sep 08, 2011 02:23 AM #1
David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation
Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential

Scott I find that unless there is something negative a location buyers are willing to drive a few miles to get what they want. Condition and updates seem to trump location today. Buyers want a house that is nicer than average but sellers want to sell a house than is average to run down.

Sep 08, 2011 02:27 AM #2
Donne Knudsen
Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA - Simi Valley, CA
CalState Realty Services

LOL at David's comment above.  While our absorption rate has remained relatively the same for the past year (3-4mon), I do still see those properties that have several hundreds of DOM.  The biggest factors here are condition and price; either it's too run-down and dilapidated for most financed buyers or the price isn't low enough for the cash buyer.

Sep 08, 2011 05:04 AM #3
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Great post Lisa, and have found a house will sell, price is everything.   Priced around location, updates, and condition.   

Sep 08, 2011 06:06 AM #4
The Scott Loper Team Bux-Mont Premier Properties
Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville - Lansdale, PA

Dave, It is always the case.

David, I know - many buyers have no vision to see what they can make of a house nor the talent or cash to accomplish it.

Donne, The "deferred" maintenance is pretty common these days.  So many people don't have the money to make the repairs and then it becomes very challenging to sell these kinds of houses.

Joan, Price is the biggest factor, but there are so many things a seller can do to "improve" their situation and get a better price.


Sep 08, 2011 02:08 PM #5
Peggy Chirico
Prudential CT Realty - Manchester, CT
REALTOR® 860-748-8900, Hartford & Tolland County Real Estate

Hi Lisa - Great summary.  Price is everything, but condition is a close second because many buyers want a move-in-ready home these days.  A few simple changes can make all the difference.

Sep 09, 2011 02:36 AM #6
Cal Yoder
Keller Williams Elite - Lititz, PA
Homes For Sale in Lancaster PA - 717.413.0744

Excellent job Lisa. In the end it all boils down to price. Location and condition can only be overcome with price. You do a great job explaining it.


Sep 09, 2011 02:50 AM #7
I've never watched Internationale House Hunters. It nousds kind of interesting. I'm going to look it up and see when I can catch an episode. We are planning to move in 2014. I am not looking forward to it. We've been in this house since 2003 and have accumulated a bunch of junk. I also love music from the 60s and 70s. My mom introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel when I was a teenager. She rented The Graduate and everything. They still remain one of my favorite singing duos. Of course, I branched off into Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. I also am a die-hard Led Zeppelin fan.
Apr 09, 2012 02:59 AM #8
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